Clark/guest star (offscreen Chlark)
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.
Sequel to Off the Record 2.
"New game plan, kid."
Clark Kent blinked at the sudden flash of white light. A tall, balding guy was standing at the top of his staircase, dressed in a blue t-shirt and jeans identical to what he himself wore. He turned to face the guy with a strange feeling of deja vu. Somehow he felt like he'd seen this face before.
"Who are you?"
The guy snapped his fingers, causing another flash of light. Clark rose to his feet as memories flooded into his mind, and stared at the other man warily.
"Q," he said.
"Can't spell fun without it." Q smiled his too-wide, slightly insane smile. "So here's the thing, kid. DC didn't go for the whole romantic Chloe plotline."
Clark considered that, then shrugged a shoulder. "I really don't care what this DC god thinks, Q. Chloe and I kissed last night."
"Yes, yes. I know. And believe me, some of the more delusional fans in the Continuum are over the moon about it. But some are infuriated. You can't make everyone happy, you know?"
"Do not rewrite this." Clark leveled a finger at Q sternly. It occurred to him vaguely that he shouldn't be shaking his finger at a god like an errant child, but, well, he couldn't quite decide which one Q was. "Chloe and I finally kissed, and it was great. Don't screw things up now."
"I've got no choice." Q lifted his hands in a what-can-I-do? gesture. "It's not just DC, really. It's the CW, too."
"More alphabet gods?"
"Unfortunately, yes. Gods who are even more flighty and unpredictable than I am, if you can believe that. Things have to be rewritten a bit. See, there are still these fans who are wild about you and Lois..."
"Me and Lois? Like, you mean, romantically?"
"But... but Lois and I don't get along. At all. Even when you made her fall for me, being around her still made me nuts. In fact it made it worse, because she drools on my suits. I hate drool."
"Doesn't matter to them, kid. To them, you two are a romance for the ages."
Clark blinked. "Um... because we snipe at each other all the time?"
"Exactly," Q said cheerfully. "It's a Moonlighting thing."
"Look," Clark said, rolling his eyes, "I don't care what your so-called fans want, and I don't give a damn about DC, either. I know what I want, and what I want is Chloe."
"Well..." Q smiled his dangerous smile. "I have an idea."
"Oh, God, no."
"Don't take my name in vain, kid. I'll smite you or something. Look, here's the thing. I ran the numbers, and no matter how we do this, we lose audience in a big way. Half the audience wants to see you with Lois and is sickened by the idea of you with Chloe, and half the audience feels the exact opposite. To put it bluntly, kiddo, you're going to be cancelled by the CW if we don't give the audience- the whole audience-- what they want."
"Cancelled? My life is not a TV show! How the hell can you cancel a life?"
"Trust me, kid. You do not want to know." He began to stalk back and forth, his hands clasped behind his back, his face thoughtful. "Okay, so here's what we do. We rewrite, just a little. You never got back to Chloe. Instead, we'll go back to your little tussle with Doomie-- this time with better special effects, added by yours truly-- and this time you wind up a mile underground, dead."
"Dead? Hang on, I don't like where this is going."
"Chill out, kid, you'll love it. So you're running around Metropolis, saving people and burning your symbol everywhere with your heat vision--"
"Burning it?" Clark repeated dubiously. "What am I now, an arsonist?"
"Exactly. You're running around, all dressed in black, and falling madly in love with Lois..."
"Hang on. You told me Lois was lost in time. That you'd set her up with another guy whose suits she could drool on."
"Easily fixed, kid. One wave of the hand and she's back. But it turns out she hasn't been with that billionaire I told you about. We're going to edit that part out. Instead she's been at Armageddon, seeing the terrible results of the next year play out."
"Oh, lucky her," Clark drawled. "She gets to see how crappy your writing is before everyone else does."
"Kid, you're hurting my feelings. Do you remember what happens when my feelings get hurt?"
"Sorry. But listen, there is just no way that me and Lois, of all people--"
"Omniscient, remember? In my case, where there's a will, there's a way. So you and Lois are falling for each other..."
"Excuse me," Clark said, "but maybe you could just stick a giant spike of kryptonite through my eardrum. It'd be less painful."
"You're not appreciating the true genius of my plot, kid. See, this guy running around Metropolis... it turns out he's not you at all. He's a doppelganger the Fortress created when it found you couldn't be revived."
"Remember the last time you died, kid? The Fortress brought you to the Arctic to revive you, right?"
"Yeah," Clark agreed. "It did."
"Well, see, this time it tried, but couldn't revive you. So instead it used your body as a kind of template and animated a copy of it with ancient Kryptonian technology... feel free to chime in at any time about how brilliant this all is, kid."
"It sounds dumb," Clark said shortly. "The Fortress is dead, in case you don't remember."
"Easily fixed with a wave of the hand. I might even be able to come up with a lame explanation, if I really exert myself. But I probably won't bother. I hate exertion."
"Besides, there's still this little problem. It sounds like I'm dead. I don't like being dead."
"Oh, you're not dead. At least, not quite. It takes a lot to kill you, kid. I think even I'd have to break a sweat."
"Let's not find out, okay? Just leave things the way they are..."
Q sighed. "I told you, you're in serious danger of cancellation, and that's not good. If you think dying is unpleasant, just wait till you try cancellation. So. Back to my brilliant plotline. You're dead, and meanwhile your doppelganger is roaming around Metropolis. He's saving people, because he has some of your essence inside him, but he also has the essence of this ancient and soulless machine, so at the same time he's getting more violent, more unpredictable. And yet he and Lois are falling in love..."
"Wait. Excuse me? A pretend me is running around boinking Lois?"
"Who said anything about boinking? You're so crass. So crude. You should be ashamed of yourself."
"No, I'm just kidding. Your evil twin is totally boinking her."
"Ow." Clark clutched at his head. "There isn't enough bleach in the world to get that image out of my brain."
"Tough luck, kid. Boinking is great for the ratings. You'll be off the bubble in no time."
"But here's the thing-- if everyone thinks that's me, then does Chloe think..."
"That you're falling in love with Lois?" Q grinned widely. "Yeah, totally. And now you begin to perceive the twisted, devious genius of my plotline. Chloe, who has always loved you, is jealous and hurt at your sudden and inexplicable defection, and begins to head down a dark path--"
"But wait. You told me last time that Chloe was pregnant. Maybe even with my baby."
"Oh, she is, she is. Just imagine how bitter it will make her to have you apparently turn your back on her, just when she needs you most."
"You are not going to do this to Chloe, Q. You're just not."
"Chill, kid. Remember what I said about conflict last time? Stories without conflict are boring. Gotta have conflict, and that means putting everyone through the wringer. Even Chloe, who's been put through the wringer so many times she ought to be completely flat by now. It's all about conflict. Okay, so we have the dark you running around. We have Chloe going dark because of her grief and heartbreak. And we have Lois..."
"Let me guess. Going dark?"
"Nah, just being her usual clueless self. So eventually your evil twin throws in his lot with Zod..."
"But see, that's good, because at that point Chloe finally realizes it's not you. Because she, at least, realizes that you would never, ever join Zod. She bravely heads off to the Arctic and rescues you, reviving you from a block of ice in the Fortress..."
"I thought you said I was dead."
"You got better. Look, I haven't totally ironed out the details. I'm more of a big picture person. But anyway, the two of you kiss--"
"When do I get to do some boinking?"
"You're the hero, kid. Heroes are role models. They don't boink. They just kiss and let the camera fade to black."
"Oh, come on."
"Sorry." Q shrugged, not looking particularly sorry. "Anyway, back to Metropolis you go. But before you can take on your doppelganger, Zod sets his evil plan in motion and you have to save Coast City from being flattened. Meanwhile, Lois' love-- which is true, if clueless-- has had an enlightening effect on your evil twin, and he begins to realize that joining Zod was a mistake. The two of you join forces, save Coast City from total annihilation, and save the day."
"And then I get some boinking."
"Kid, I get the feeling you're not paying attention to the brilliantly scribed intricacies of my plot. But yeah, Lois and your evil twin hook up, you and Chloe hook up, and everyone's happy, even DC and the CW and the crazed fans in the Continuum. The end."
"Q, does any of this make sense? I mean, even a little?"
"Making sense is overrated, kiddo. What matters is keeping the fans watching. So? What do you think?"
"Um, it doesn't sound too bad, if I still wind up with Chloe. Except for the part where I have to die and be entombed in ice for months. I don't think I like that part."
"You'll be dead," Q assured him. "You won't even notice it."
"Yeah, but Q..."
"Don't argue, kiddo. The writer knows best."
"Unless the writer can't write worth shit."
Q glared. "Kid, remember to whom you're speaking. All-knowing. All-seeing."
"Yeah, but can you type?"
"Shut up, junior. Anyway, to wrap it up I just have to send off your doppelganger and Lois somewhere else so they get a happy ending, get Chloe to take on Lois' name, and have you put on bright colors, and we're all set for the next season. If we get picked up."
Clark frowned. "What if we don't?"
"I told you already, kid. You don't want to know. It's better to not even think about it. So, I'm just going to rewrite the past couple of days now..."
"Q," Clark said in a desperate rush. "Don't do this to me again. Don't rewrite my life, okay?"
"Too late," Q said, and snapped his fingers.
"This is amazing," Q2 said, staring down at the big city called Metropolis. "It's absolutely riveting. In all the years I've been watching, it's never been better."
"It's stupid," Q3 retorted. "Dumbest plot twists ever, and the Continuum knows we've seen enough dumb plot twists. I'm not even watching any more. It's that stupid."
"I think it's awesome."
"I think it's the stupidest thing I've ever seen."
"Incredibly lame, you mean."
Not far away, Q lounged unseen, grinning widely. He was eating popcorn, and his eyes were fixed, not on the unfolding drama below in Metropolis, but on the quarreling fans of the Q continuum.
He'd lost interest in Clark Kent's story a while ago, but he never, ever grew tired of watching the Q fight about it. The fighting was apparently endless, and it gave him a warm, fuzzy feeling to look back on all the changes he'd made to the plot, and to reflect on how much his changes had contributed to the quarreling.
Q2 and Q3 were yelling at each other now, looking like they might just come to blows, and Q ate some more popcorn.
"Conflict," he said happily, to no one in particular. "It's all about conflict."